Drake Beats the Rap: U.S. Appeals Court Rules ‘Pound Cake’ Was Fair Use

Drake, the famous Canadian rapper, has won a significant legal victory in the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that Drake’s sampling of “Jimmy Smith Rap” in his song “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” constitutes fair use. This decision affirms what U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III had already determined in the past.

Although the track was sampled without prior consent, the changes Drake made were enough to qualify for fair use. Specifically, the Appeals Court found that “Jimmy Smith Rap” was used in a “transformative” sense, and that its meaning was fundamentally altered, so much so that it couldn’t reasonably be mistaken as a knockoff of the original.

The Court went on to explain that the message of the “Jimmy Smith Rap” is one about the supremacy of jazz to the derogation of other types of music, which, unlike jazz, will not last. On the other hand, “Pound Cake” sends a counter message – that it is not jazz music that reigns supreme, but rather all “real music,” regardless of genre. This transformative message, as well as the lack of evidence that “Pound Cake” usurps demand for “Jimmy Smith Rap” or otherwise causes a negative market effect, was enough for the court to confirm the fair use of the sample.

In the Court’s view, copyright infringement involves one knowingly using a portion of another’s protected work to secure a larger share of the same audience. Drake’s track wasn’t intended to reach the same audience as Jimmy Smith’s work, which further cemented the fair use ruling.

This definition of copyright infringement established by Drake’s case appears to differ greatly from the definition assigned by other courts. For instance, Katy Perry is in the process of appealing a $2.8 million copyright infringement verdict that was issued last year. Perry’s “Dark Horse” appears to bear few similarities to the allegedly infringed work, but the jury believed otherwise.

Despite the legal battles, Drake continues to make music and grow his career. He dropped a video for his song “War” in December of 2019, which received critical acclaim and went viral. Drake is also a producer and actor, having revived the British TV show “Top Boy” last year. An additional season is in the works and is expected to be released in 2020.

Drake’s fair use victory is significant not only for the rapper himself but also for the music industry as a whole. The decision sets a precedent for future cases involving the sampling of copyrighted works and could make it easier for artists to use samples in their music without fear of legal repercussions. It also highlights the importance of transformative use when it comes to fair use, emphasizing that changes made to an original work can make all the difference in determining whether or not a sample is fair use.

Overall, Drake’s legal battle and victory have shed light on the complexities of copyright law and the importance of fair use in creative industries. As Drake continues to make music and push boundaries in his career, his fair use victory will undoubtedly be remembered as a significant moment in the evolution of copyright law.

One Response

  1. Angelito

    Fair use is by nature a subjective test. One judge may say it applies and the next says no.

    The problem I have is that the song says popularity is the measure of quality. It is not.